It is about making your story as ‘Happily ever after’ as possible.
(Warning: This is my longest blog post – why not grab that cup of tea or coffee you’ve been wanting to have? It is can important topic, almost as important as life itself. So, here goes: )
I asked my eighty-four-year-old happily married mother what she had to say about married life and she said,
‘Married life is what you make it!’
She said this, after sixty-two years of married life, and her husband is crazy about her. They cannot live without each other even for a minute. Each one looks out for the well-being of the other all the time. Of course they still have their little skirmishes and let each other have it. The fact remains, they cannot be without each other.
Isn’t that what marriage is really all about?
Once I was going through a bad patch in my married life. (My close friends were convinced it was ‘jadoo’ or ‘nazar’, as we were the envy of everyone. Our parties, home and family were looked upon as an example by all. As you can see from my husband’s round up of our home and family here. Anyhow, I didn’t believe that one. )
I went to a mentor of mine. After I told her my (sad) story, she said, ‘you know, everything that you have said, sounded like my own story!’ I was shocked. When we compared, there were a few major common factors.
‘If that is true, then how is it that you are counseling me, and I’m so upset?’
She said, ‘I turned to Allah.’
She laughed saying, ‘I used to drive, and go out and do so many things. When I turned to Allah, I realized that my Allah doesn’t ask me to do anything. All He expects from me is to stay at home and take care of my family. So, I gave up driving, and even grocery shopping. Now, my husband does all those. He even shops for me. Sometimes, he will bring me the same print of dress in different colors! I laugh and wear it. After all, I’m fine, if he is fine. I am at peace now.’
Yes, that is what I’m trying to say here. Turn to Allah (God). He will guide you. He will guide you at every step. You will be able to save yours and your family’s home.
It was one of you, my readers, who asked me to write on how to keep a good marriage relationship going. I know it seems rather tough some times.
Since I’ve known all sides of it, I can write about it. Almost thirty two years of marriage, behind me, I’m qualified. I’ve personally known, the good (ecstatic), the bad (ugly) parts of married life. So, if I had my own marriage all over again, I’d do some parts differently now, though ninety percent would be the same.
At first I thought, ‘why should I write on this topic?’
Then, as usual, I thought, ‘Why not?’
If it is possible to help others have a better married life, it is worth it. I’ve been a full-time and part-time home maker. Had three children. Traveled. Moved house and cities. Even went to another country. I’ve held jobs, mostly of teaching and administration. Three times I’ve been principal of school branches. At the same time, I’ve been a freelance writer for leading dailies like Dawn and The News. I’ve written books, painted, and took care of my children. I’ve done full-time and part-time cooking, given grand dinners for two to fifty persons. So, I believe I’ve faced most of the situations that you are having now. Except I’ve never taken a nine-to-five job as that would have meant leaving my children with a maid.
Otherwise, I’ve done it all.
My husband, neither asked me to do a job, nor did he stop me from being a full time home maker. It was always my own choice.
Whatever lessons in married life were left out, I’ve learnt as a widow. Now, I know when my husband would come home with a glum face, it wasn’t because he didn’t like the look of my face. It was because he had just come home from a bad day at the office or while getting some work done. As working women we know, how bad it can get sometimes. I’ve now had personal experience of how it feels. Though things are improving, in those days it was worse. The traffic, and umpteen problems of the outside world, which a spouse chooses not to talk about, makes him or her glum, so, this is why I’ve said,’ it is not about you.’
I’m not going to write anything here which you can get online. What I’d like to share with you are :
- Phases and Stages of Marriage.
- Danger zones in married life.
- Rules of a happy marriage.
- Tips for husbands.
- Tips for wives.
1. Phases and Stages of Marriage.
Let me say, each phase of married life has its’ own beauty. It is up to you to either enjoy it, or to sit and crib about it.
Your choice, your hell, your heaven.
So, as you go along, you make adjustments, adapt and change accordingly. Each supporting the other lovingly and with respect.
- The honeymoon phase: (One to five years.)This could last for the honeymoon only, or till the children arrive. Of course, it differs with every couple. The time when you both are in a real ‘la la land’, where you don’t want any intruders. Your spouse is your whole world. During this phase, the two need to get into harmony about family planning and decide how many they want to have. (The lessor the better for all concerned.)
- Settling into routine: (a couple of months, to two years.) Soon, office and work of one or both spouses begin, this brings them down to earth and ‘normal’ life begins.The two hardly settle down, when the wife starts expecting their first planned or unplanned child.
- Arrival of children: One by one they arrive, playing havoc with the days, nights, routine, and life of the couple. My mother advised me to carry on with normal life, just letting the children join in with it. That is what I did. (My husband and I traveled through ten countries in twenty days with a one year old child too. We even did camping in Kuwait. It was fine. I would go everywhere with him, and my children would be with me all the time. There are certain times when you take a break for the sake of your child, for instance when they are babies, or during final exams. Otherwise, get back to ‘normal’ life immediately. Different stages in your children’s lives affecting yours: The children, turn from babies, to toddlers, to children, then teenagers. You keep adapting to the changes in life, and adjusting career and hobbies to their needs and their requirements.
- Career and Success of one marriage partner: This often results in loneliness for the other. No matter how busy you are in your success, always make time for your spouse. I remember, my dad would be getting home at twelve am many times from office. My mother and I would sit with him while he had his dinner and we would listen to his days’ highlights, and share ours with him.
- Fast paced lives: when both partners are doing jobs and having active lives, both make sure to give each other time. Sometimes, even five or ten minutes can be enough. But to ignore your spouse while you are giving your full attention to all and sundry is bound to take its toll on your marriage. So, as they say, ‘a stitch in time, saves nine.’ It is best to give those few minutes with full attention to your spouse, while she/he is still in her good mood.Otherwise, you two are going to end up having fights. Stressful phases when life pressures are maximum: It maybe a move to another country, or being downsized or fired suddenly. Supposing there has been an accident or a robbery in your house. So, all these upheavals in your life, are bound to affect your marriage too. Just watch out, and be more patient. Pray harder.
- Children growing up: Your difference of opinion in matters of child upbringing and career choices. Usually, it is best to divide sections of parenting between the two of you. Depending on the strengths of each spouse.
- Children leaving for college or after marriage: Suddenly, your whole life changes, when they leave. Now you both have more time on your hands, but you somehow, lost contact with each other during the ‘busy spells of child upbringing, and career.’ This is the time, when you both will appreciate all the efforts that you made during your ‘busy’ spells to be together. I remember, my parents have always played chess or cards. Always. No matter how busy my father was, he would make time to play with my mother, (if not daily then at least once a week.) He would openly say, how much he loves being home with his family. So, when I got married, and my father retired from the army, my parents started going on trips to Swat and Abbottabad.
- Retirement and slow pace of life: So, this too is a challenge. Lately, we have seen cases of a couples divorcing after twenty-five and thirty years of marriage. A time comes when the patience level has depleted, or another ‘candidate’ has arrived on the scene. So, whatever the case; being fair to each other is the best. It is best to be with your original spouse, unless things have taken the worst of turns.
- Serious health issues: this can occur at any time in one’s life, and depending on how long drawn out it is, it is bound to create great stress on the relationship.
2. Danger Zones in Married Life:
I’m telling you, there are many dangerous times:
Especially during the start.
Then in the middle
Particularly, towards the end.
(Just kidding! )
But it is true, too.
What I’m trying to say is, that you have to be on high alert at all times. It is like defending a fort. Enemies can come from outside and within the territory too. So, you need to watch out.
Here are some marriage danger zones, you need to watch out about:
- Loneliness, this can even happen in each other’s company. When you constantly on the phone talking to others, while sitting with each other you are practically ignoring each other. So, please have ‘no phone’ times and places in your home. Having no time for each other: You give time to your friends, relatives, clients, business, job or whatever. But there isn’t even a few minutes for your spouse?
- Anger and Blame game: Arguments and bickering ruins all relationships. It weakens a team.So, develop strategies that work with your spouse, but do not let it be forever, leaving scars in your relationship.
- Neglecting spouse: Many new mothers, start neglecting their spouse too much during the first few months. It is vital to be ‘pretty’ and ‘pleasant’ for the spouse too! Proper management of time, and your own energies will make sure you give attention to your husband also. Later, on many women make it a habit to ignore their husbands. That isn’t wise at all. If you want to be a good parent, then you need to be a good spouse too. The happy marriage is the best environment for your child. So, you have to invest in the marriage at such times specially. It is the same as expecting the husband to give time to his wife, when his career becomes too demanding.
- Teaming up with children against the spouse. Or to support your child in front of your spouse, against the wishes of your spouse.
- Having online friendships: or calling ‘friends’ of opposite gender and talking on phone, or chatting online in front of spouse. Saying, ‘I don’t mind if you do it too!’ This one can be lethal.
- Having too many outside interests: So you’ve got to work out the time, so do all your outside stuff, when hubby dear is busy. (For love, you need time and attention!)
- Midlife crises: Some go through it in their mid or late thirties, or you may experience it in your forties, fifties or sixties. There is no timeline. But it happens, when your life suddenly changes due to retirement from job, children leaving home – yes the ‘empty nest’ syndrome. Or death of a child or a parent. Anything can trigger it.
- Health issues and Menopause: It could be blood pressure, or anxiety, or depression. It can be anything which is health related in your spouse, but it can play havoc in a marriage. As time passes, there is the female and male menopause too.
- Stress: house moves, change in family life, addition of a family member, or just a very high pace of life, all of these can be dangerous for your family life.
- Nagging: Yes, wives are really good at it. Just stop it. Get the hint, he doesn’t want to talk about it.
- Hidden agenda and manipulation: When one spouse somehow blames the other for something in his or her mind. No explanations given or asked for, then being vindictive and trying to take revenge.
- Contempt: Looking down at your spouse. Remember, the fact is that in some matters, you will be better, while in others your spouse will be better. So, why think low of your spouse? If it could be measured, this would top the list. I’m writing it at the bottom of the list, because there is nothing worse than this.
3. Rules for a happy married life:
- Respect: This is the greatest point.
- Love: It has many colors and shades, and each one needs to be felt.
- Paying attention: to each other. It is important to listen and pay attention. When your partner is pleading with you about something; listen. Take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Do something, before it is too late. Do time management to spend some time together every day through all the phases that you are going through together. Stay connected: even if you have to use Skype, WhatsApp, emails, messaging and everything you can. Only then can you Appreciate each other: Never take your partner for granted.
- Trust: You both have to earn each other’s trust by avoiding certain situations which can put things into jeopardy.
- Patience: I cannot stress this one enough. It is the hardest and the most powerful one.
- Space: Sometimes a husband or wife need time to unwind. So, do give space to each other when they need to be alone sometimes, just to be able to collect one’s thoughts. Just go and do your own thing elsewhere, giving some space to your spouse.
- Always pray and give charity for your marriage: wish well for your spouse, and do your best to make life easier for him or her. Regularly give sadqa for your spouse, home and family.
- Giving each other gifts for every occasion: always celebrating special occasions. Sometimes, making ordinary occasions special too. Remember, your finances may not be good at all times, but happiness can be found in many shades and colors. Surprises are always welcome: I think you make an effort to form a routine, but a routine, must be broken sometimes too. An element of freshness and surprise is always welcome. I would often make reservations in a resort for our family. It would be a surprise for my husband.
- Being sensitive: to each other’s needs and requirements. The true beauty of this relationship lies, in your doing things before being asked!
- Support each other always: At least in front of others. Never say anything against your partner in front of anyone, (neither your parents, siblings or friends.) In case of problems, go to a specialist or counselor. Best is for both of you to go together. You can go to a mentor or one wise chosen friend. But never involve your family. It will only mess things up.
- Humor: this is the most important one, where you both enjoy each other’s company and enjoy smiling and laughing together. Soon, you will have jokes of your own, which no one else will ever understand.
- Holidays and activities: Make sure you two have times spent together, whether it is travelling, going out for dinner, or watching movies together, or playing board games, or any video game.
- Support your spouse going out with friends: Sometimes it is okay for you both to go out with your own friends, or doing activities, the other one isn’t interested in. In this way, you can have a good time, while your spouse is away. You can happily receive each other afterwards, because you weren’t bored waiting. Just make sure it doesn’t replace the times you have together.
- Common interests: This is vital for you both. Try to learn about things that he is interested in, or vice versa.
- Food and home décor: When a spouse walks into his or her home, it must be welcoming. It must feel like a haven from the world. Actually a heaven, where one’s favorite foods are cooked and the décor is done according to yours and her tastes.
- Being silent: The silence of our elders was a big thing. The feminists of today say, ‘we must speak out, we must express ourselves.’ I also believe in that. But there is a right time to do so. Not when the person is already very angry. So, there are times, when keeping quiet is the wise thing to do. So, if one speaks out and it only ruins things, then why do so? I saw my mother being quiet whenever my dad was angry. (Believe me, he had a foul temper.) She would wait, till his mood got better, during a cooler time, she would mention the issue. Otherwise, she wouldn’t talk to him about it at all.
- Keep the home environment pleasant: My mother chose to be silent about the issue, while, all the time, keeping the environment of our home very pleasant and normal. She would decide later, whether to talk to him about her problem later or not. She has always been very patient. My father has always valued this quality in her. A man knows.
4.Tips for husbands:
- Be pleasant: When you are coming home, please stop thinking about your office. Make a solid intent to give yourself and your family a real break. Don’t walk in, bringing your entire office with you. Give your wife/husband a smile as you walk in, compliment her/him on her lovely dress or change of hair style. Share a joke. Enjoy the food and compliment, even if it wasn’t as good as usual.
- Financial support: Keep joint accounts with your wife/husband. Please discuss your financial goals and constraints to her/him. Have everything on the table. So, she/or her too can cooperate with you. Let me tell you, if you are going to take ‘life insurance’ for your spouse, it can get into litigation, so give her/or him some solid security.
- Discuss issues: Have meetings with your wife, perhaps over a nice dinner on your combined policy about raising children or other current issues.
- Do not play games: There are men who play games with their wives, don’t be one of them. Be candid and truthful with her. Expecting the same from her.Things like tit-for-tat, being passive aggressive, and constant arguments only ruin this beautiful relationship.
- Forgive and forget: There will be many things happening between you. Do not share them with others.This is why men stop talking to their wives, as they feel she isn’t keeping his confidentiality. This is something I’ve observed in my mother. All her husband’s ‘secrets’ are safe with her.
5. Tips for wives:
- Always see off your husband when he is leaving home.
- Always try to be there to receive him.
- Make sure your home is in tip top condition, (in spite of children.) when he gets home.
- Be your most gorgeous self when you welcome him, ear rings, dress, make up, and jewelry and specially perfume. Be the best that you can be, the way he likes you. Just as you dress up when going out, do it for him.
- Do not discuss issues when he enters the home. Say all is well, and in control. (Believe me, he has faced his own dramas already!) Give him his favorite food, the way he likes it.
Are you thinking, all this is too much hard work? Well, don’t you work hard for your horrible boss, who is never happy with your work? Anything worth having is worth working hard for.
Once you make up your mind that you will make a success of your marriage, then you will. Come what may.
Stay blessed, my dear reader. There is no happiness greater than a blissful marriage, so it is definitely worth striving for!
Note: All photographs gratefully shared from Waliya Najib Photography and a couple of pictures taken by Nataliya Khan Photography.